Meet the Estonian designer whose eponymous line of luxurious embroidered pieces is bringing couture style to a younger generation of discerning fashion lovers
‘In a very clichéd way, I always knew that this is what I wanted to do,’ says designer Roberta Einer. In reality, her story so far is anything but clichéd. Born and raised in Estonia, Einer was so driven to work in fashion that by the age of 14 she was already researching the best way to make it happen. In a bid to improve her English, she won a bursary to attend a British boarding school, and moved to the UK at the tender age of 15. ‘My parents were terrified, because I was all alone, and I’d never been to London before,’ she says with a smile.
As we talk, sitting in Einer’s bare-brick, light-filled studio near London Bridge, it‘s clear that her bravery has paid off. Now 25, she has fashion qualifications from Central Saint Martins and Westminster, and has picked up design experience at major labels including Alexander McQueen, Roksanda, Mary Katrantzou and Balmain. In 2015, straight out of university, she launched her eponymous fashion brand – a high-end label for young women who love embellishment. Each collection is a celebration of colour and texture, with crushed velvet, leather, embroidery and sequins sitting comfortably alongside each other.
As it turned out, Einer’s time at Balmain – which came just before the final year of her studies – was crucial in developing what has now become her trademark aesthetic. ‘Before that, my work was really minimal with very restricted use of colour, and I was very conscious about not doing anything that could be considered bad taste,’ she recalls. ‘But when I went to Balmain, although I hated them I had to work with things like zebra and leopard print. I was completely out of my comfort zone, using materials and patterns that I would never otherwise have touched. I then realised how much fun it could be.’
On Inspiration: ‘All the key embroideries are drawn in an art-deco style, and I’ve used warm browns, dark reds and a pink that feels like it’s been out in the sun for too long’
What she learnt in that role is how to walk the line: her clothes are bold, but never tacky. When she went back to university, she sat down with her tutors to talk about what she would do for her final collection. ‘I just said, “Let’s forget everything I’ve done before, because I want to do a completely different thing.” So my graduate collection was pink and blue and really heavy on embroidery.’ Within months of completing her course, she had launched her brand; it was soon picked up by stockists in Italy, Hong Kong and New York.
Embroidered fabrics have continued to play a central role in Einer’s collections – she uses the same Indian factory as Balmain, where the expert embroiderers produce the highest quality fabrics. The clothes are produced in London. ‘For me, it’s all about innovative textiles and new, modern luxury,’ she says. This no-expense-spared approach pushes her prices up, but that’s OK; she’s targeting women who have a big budget but aren’t interested in the same brands as their mothers. ‘There’s this market of a younger customer who is still playful – who would like to have the same quality, but with a different cut and a more youthful feel.’
For her autumn/winter 2017 collection of party dresses, bomber jackets and slouchy sweaters – available online from August – Einer drew inspiration from Lisbon. ‘All the key embroideries are drawn in an art-deco style, and I’ve used warm browns, dark reds and a pink that feels like it’s been out in the sun for too long,’ she explains. For her London Fashion Week presentation she built a stylish tennis court, on which models reclined in sunloungers or chatted over the nets.
One wore a show-stopping, Swarovski crystal-embellished wool coat, which Einer is particularly pleased with. It may not be the most accessible piece in the collection – it’s very luxurious and very heavy – but it’s in the most elaborate craftsmanship that she really comes alive as a designer. And luckily, the fanciest pieces tend to sell out first. ‘For me, that’s a really positive thing, because it gives me confirmation that I can keep on doing the more extravagant stuff,’ she says, with another huge smile. ‘And people really like it.’